Hitting Long Irons vs Short Irons (5 Keys and Tips)

Looking to be more consistent throughout your bag?

Do you want to play consistent golf where you can control the start line, the curve of the ball and have enough distance to play the course?

Yes, we all dream and work towards consistently hitting the shots that we identify as our “good” shots.  Golfers of all ability levels hit some great shots and some shots that aren’t as good.

The best golfers are able to repeat these great shots more frequently and avoid disastrous poor shots. 

While there are some differences in hitting long irons vs short irons, there are 5 keys that will help you maximize your efforts and shoot your lowest scores possible.

Our goal is to help you with our keys and tips and have you start playing better golf today.  Everyday is a new journey with the game of golf, but we all love the physical and mental challenge of playing great golf! 

Golf is a game for people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and the challenges that come with trying to shoot our best scores!  Here at golfjourney365, we love that journey and embrace the challenge to get better every day!

Let’s not forget about the importance of the short game, but for today we will focus on hitting those crisp irons that have the perfect ball flight and fall close to the pins.

We know that when we get inside of 150 yard, our expectations seem to increase and we want to give ourselves a good chance for birdie!  We know that the more chances we have between 10 and 30 feet, the more birdies we will make!

A brand new set of golf club irons

Hitting Long Irons vs Short Irons?

Here are 5 keys to hitting both long irons and short irons crisp and setting us up for birdie opportunities.  They include:

  • Have realistic expectations
  • Controlling where our club bottoms out on every swing
  • Controlling the start line and curve of the ball 
  • Having enough speed to hit all irons solid
  • Playing the percentages and having quality course management
Some quick difference between long irons vs short irons in the game of golf include the following:
  • Long irons have a longer shaft and can be more difficult to hit with precision.
  • Short irons are designed to allow us to hit the ball close with the right technique.
  • Long irons will generally be played more towards the front of the stance or off the left chest of the right handed golfer.
  • Short irons will be played center of stance or slightly back depending on the desired flight of the ball.
  • Some golfers like Bryson DeChambeua use single length irons to reduce the complication of learning a variation of a swing for each iron.
  • Many long irons such as the 2 or 3 iron have been replaced by hybrid clubs, which can be easier to hit higher and further.
  • Long irons can be great clubs to punch out of trees or to hit off the tee on shorter, narrow holes.

5 Keys and Tips to hitting both Long Irons and Short Irons

Key #1: Have realistic expectations

As far as long irons are concerned…

Here are a couple of stats that might jump out at you.  This data is from the PGA Tour on approach shots between 175 yards and 200 yards.

  • Proximity to Pin by the Tour Leader = 24 feet 9 inches
  • Proximity to Pin by the 200th ranked person in this category = 39 feet 7 inches
  • The 50th Ranked Player in Greens in Regulation from this distance = 59.55%

There are a couple of things that really pop out at me from this list above.  The best golfer from this distance is more than 8 yards from the hole.  This leaves a rather lengthy birdie putt.

The 200th rank player in this category is more than 13 yards away and close to 40 feet, this is a really long birdie putt.

The 50th rank person in Greens In Regulation from this distance only hits the green less than 60% of the time from this yardage.

My main point being – have realistic expectations on those par 3’s or the long approach shots on the par 4’s and 5’s.  Solid contact and carrying the ball somewhere around the green should be a major win for most!  The goal should be to miss the ball in the right place.

Too many amateur golfers expect to hit every wedge inside of 5 feet and every long iron inside of 20 feet, but when we look at data from the best golfers in the world, we quickly realize that maybe our expectations are way out of line with our skill set! 

This can destroy the fun that a round can bring and make you miserable.  I would recommend familiarizing yourself with some of this data, which can actually make the game more fun, because you realize that sometimes those average shots you hit are actually way above average. 

Take time to enjoy those shots!

As far as short irons are concerned…

The average proximity to the pin on shots from 100 yards is 18 feet.  Many people if asked this question might answer 8 to 10 feet, which may be the case for the leaders of the tournament that we see on television on the weekends. 

If you mark off 18 feet, it is quite a big diameter and you might be shocked.

Having these realistic expectations will help us understand that we are maybe better than we give ourselves credit for. 

Even the best players on the planet average 18 feet from the pin on shots from around 100 yards.  Let that sink in for a minute or two!

Proximity to pin is important. Have realistic expectations!

Tip #1: Measure your own stats and compare

The bottom line is whether you are hitting a long iron or short iron, have realistic expectations and have your aim points be at quality places where you aren’t short siding yourself! 

Check out the PGA site and create a little chart that shows the average distance from holes of various lengths.  

Quick Assessment:

Compare your distances for 5 total rounds to measure where you need improvement.  You may find out that you are very good from 100-125 yards, but struggle once you get outside of 150 yards.  The evidence will be clear where you need to get to work.

The next 3 keys and tips will help you improve your swing and gain speed to help you in your area of deficiency!

Key #2: Controlling where our club bottoms out on every swing

Hitting solid irons starts with controlling the bottom of the golf swing.  The best golfers in the world and even single digit handicap players hit the right spot on the ground over 99% of the time, while the high handicappers in the game might struggle to strike the ball solid even 60-70% of the time.

Being able to control the bottom of the swing is essential to get yourself started on the right path.  Regardless of if you are hitting a long iron or short iron, controlling the bottom is needed.  This helps you strike the ball solid and create the compression that it takes to hit quality shots.

Tip# 2: Move weight forward and complete this drill

If you are struggling to strike the ball solid, try setting up with your weight 60% on the front foot.  This will help you control the bottom of your swing and strike the ball solid. 

Also, focus on keeping your head centered and not having a massive shift off the ball and then back towards the ball.  I know this goes against the teaching of the 90s and early 2000s, but staying centered with some weight forward will get you headed in the right direction.

Here is a quick drill to practice and assess:

  • Paint a 1 or 2 yard long line somewhere in your own yard.
  • See how many times out of 20 you can strike just on the target side of that line.  We want to strike the ball first and then the ground. The line indicates where teh ball would be sitting.
  • Log your times out of 20 you can do this successfully and monitor over a month.  Complete this drill several times a week to practice where you strike the ground. 

*You can utilize a wiffle ball to help you visualize the ball, but still paint the line to measure where you are striking the ground.  You would place the wiffle ball on the line.

Key #3: Controlling the start line and curve of the ball (see drill below)

The best golfers have a “stock shot,” this is a shot that is their go to pattern on their shot.  For example, I utilize a stock draw shot that I know will start right of my target line and curve back towards the target. 

Whether you are hitting long irons or short irons it is important to develop a stock shot and play towards the largest parts of the greens.

Tip #3: How to control your start line

The best golfers are able to control their start line by controlling their club face.  If you want the ball to start to the right, your club face needs to be slightly open.  You can still hit a draw if your swing path is right of the club face.  Here is a quick primer on the ball flight laws:

If you understand the ball flight laws you can start to become your own swing instructor and make corrections on the range or the course by reading the flight of your golf ball. 

Too often golfers turn to the video of their swing when everything you need to know can be read off of your ball flight. 

Did you know that your ball flight can tell you the following:

  • Where your club face was at impact.
  • If your swing path was left or right of the club face.

Once you know these two items you can make the corrections by checking out our 2nd Tip on understanding what swing thoughts can help you get the proper matchups.

So let’s dive into the ball flight laws:

  • Generally speaking, the golf ball will start where the club face is aiming.
  • The golf ball will then curve away from the swing path.

There are two different lines that we must understand.  The target line and the start line.  The best golfers start the ball left or right of the target line and then curve the ball back towards the target.

Let’s go over some examples to help you better understand the ball flight laws.

Example A:  Let’s say that the club face is 3 degrees right of the target line and the swing path is 5 degrees right of the target line.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start right of the target line and draw back towards the target.  This is known as a push draw.

Example B: Let’s say the club face is 3 degrees right of the target line, same as in example A, but the swing path is only 1 degree right of the target line.  What will the ball do?

Answer: The ball will start to the right of the target line and will fade to the right.  Keep in mind that the ball will curve away from the swing path.  In this example, both the club face and the swing path are to the right and the ball will curve away from the path.

Try this Drill:

  • Set up an alignment stick about 6-8 yards in front of your ball on the target line.
  • Hit 10 shots and see how many you can start right of your target line.
  • Hit 10 shots and see how many you can start left of the target line.
  • Now that you have practiced controlling your start line, once you can start the ball right or left of the target line on 7 out of 10 times, see if you can curve the ball back towards the target (keep the ball flight laws in mind)
Here is video by Shawn Clement on controlling the draw and fade:

Key #4: Having enough speed to hit all irons solid

In the game of golf, we must have enough speed to play the course.  If we lack speed the game becomes difficult and leads to frustration.  The best golfers have enough speed to hit both long irons and short irons.

If you have reached the point in your game where long irons are difficult to hit, it may be time to consider moving to more hybrids in your bag.  However, I do have some good news in the tip portion of this key.

Tip #4: You can gain more speed

With the right training through SuperSpeed Golf, you can expect to gain 5-8% in club head speed, which could mean 20-30 yards in total distance with the driver and allow you to hit some of your irons 5-15 yards longer.

The SuperSpeed Golf System puts golfers through a training protocol that takes 10-15 minutes per session and these sessions take palace every other day. 

Utilize the three different weighted clubs, the golfer follows these simple protocols and nots the swing speed with the green, blue and red clubs.  As early as the first training session, the golfer can see a 5-8% increase in speed, which can become more permanent after 30 days of training.

Learn more about SuperSpeed Golf here

Use discount code Golfjourney365 to save money!

Key #5: Playing the percentages and having quality course management

Play the percentages on the course.  With the chart we discussed earlier, know the realistic potential result from different distances. 

Understanding the proximity to the pin averages on the PGA tour will help you be realistic with all pins you aim straight at and which pin locations you play towards the center of the green and hope to run one in from 20-30 feet!

Tip #5: Check out the scratch level recipe

If you need to do a quick assessment on the level of your game, take some detailed notes on each round and compare your starts with a scratch golfer!  

Note the scrambling rate and the Greens in Regulation.  

We know that if we strike the ball solid, control our start lines and curve and have enough speed, keeping our course management in order that we can hit 67% of the greens!

THE STATS – The Recipe

Greens in Regulation67%
Fairways Hit53%
Putts Per Hole1.67
Sand Saves59%
Average Driving Distance251

Some Major Takeaways From The Table Above:

  • 12 out of 18 greens in regulation seems doable on an average course.  This is 2 out of every 3 holes, we must be able to hit the green in regulation.
  • The 53% for fairways hit can always be a bit misleading.  Are the other 47% of drives still in play and the only barrier is a bit of rough?  Or is the ball now behind the tree.  A stat I would like to see is if you have a clean, unobstructed shot to the green.  I believe this is the game changer in scoring
  • The putts per hole seems somewhat achievable.  Where this number can be thrown off is if the one putts are to save par or to make birdies after a green hit in regulation.
  • The scrambling stat is not surprising at all.  I would have thought that one must be above 50% to become a scratch golfer.  I have heard that PGA Tour players expect to chip a ball within a 3 foot circle – 7 out of 10 times.  If a scratch golfer can do this 5 out of 10 times and then make one putt outside of 3 feet, they can easily average around 60% in scrambling.
  • The sand saves is an impressive number as it is actually higher than the scrambling percentage.  This shows that scratch golfers save par more from the sand then the rough.
  • The average driving distance is actually lower than I would have anticipated.  A 250 driving average only takes around a 103 mile per hour swing speed.
Excellent video on what a scratch golfer looks like:

My Secret To Golf Improvement

Let’s face it, in order to get really good at golf, we must practice frequently.  About three years ago, I made the leap and invested in a golf simulator build for my garage. 

I went with a SkyTrak Launch Monitor and the TGC software and can now play over 100,000 courses including Augusta, Pebble Beach, Bethpage Black, Whistling Straits. St. Andrews and many other of the top 100 courses in the world.

This golf simulator setup, which is more affordable that you might imagine, has been a game changer.  I can now play golf everyday of the year regardless of rain, snow, cold weather or time of day.  I can practice or play rounds of golf.  I can stand in the 11th fairway at Augusta and with the auto-rewind feature I am able to practice my approach shots from various differences.

It is worth checking out through Rain or Shine Golf as they offer some incredible packages along with financing offers that are difficult to beat.

Some direct links to Rain or Shine Golf for pricing and financing:

One last thing that has helped me gain significant distance is the SuperSpeed Training Sytem.  This overspeed based system where you train every other day for about 10-15 minutes with different swing sticks can help you increase your swing speed by 5-8% which can be 20-30 yards.  Who wouldn’t want an extra 20-30 yards.  Plus it helps improve your mechanics.

SuperSpeed Golf – Use Discount Code Golfjourney365 for some savings!

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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